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An interview with CocknBullKid on the release of new album Adulthood

It's an anthemic tour de force: Adulthood by CocknBullKid comes out today on Moshi Moshi / Island Records. I had a little catch up with Anita Blay, the lady behind the songs.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Cocknbullkid by Laura Warecki
CocknBullKid by Laura Warecki.

When Amelia’s Magazine first met CocknBullkid she stood out as a unique singer, purchase flying far from any obvious pigeon hole. I was impressed. Now, case a couple of years later, ambulance Anita Blay is back with a much bigger anthemic sound on second album Adulthood, confidence emanating from every danceable tune. Anita may now be ready to embrace the life of a grown up, yet Adulthood still retains a good dose of the individualistic charm that appealed to me in the first place, all sung in the honeyed vocals that attracted industry attention when as a teenager she took part in Hackney youth music project Tribal Tree. I caught up with the inimitable East Londoner on the release of her album, which came out today.


Firstly, hello, how are you, it’s been awhile! What have you been up to since you were last featured in Amelia’s Magazine.
Learning loads, writing loads and the obligatory bit of soul searching, of course.

Why the name change? I’m getting a wee bit confused…
I just wanted to make it more concise really. Nothing more elaborate than that. I didn’t even think anyone would notice!

cocknbullkid by daria hlazatova
CocknBullKid by Daria Hlazatova.

I love your voice, what was your training? Did you sing as a little girl, and do you think your voice has changed over the years and if so how?
Thank you. I think it takes most singers years to find their true voice. We are all influenced by our surroundings and what we hear so it’s easy to start singing in an affected voice. I hear so many singers do it and they don’t even realise. Part of my going away was to really scratch away at all the affectations. And hopefully I’ve done that. As for training - I haven’t had a singing lesson in a years. Which I’m not proud of. Even if you can sing you still need to learn how to improve and protect your voice.

YouTube Preview ImageHold on to your Misery.

How was Tribal Tree formative in your development as a musician and a person? What did being part of it give to you?
It was great in terms of learning how to use software and discipline yourself into writing all the time. We also used to do X Factor style showcases every month. We’d play to a bunch of A&Rs in a room the size of a shoe box and listen to their criticism of the performance. It helped in growing thick skin.

CocknBullKid Papercut by Lou Taylor
CocknBullKid Papercut by Lou Taylor.

You are influenced by The Knife and Morrissey. How would you say these most diverse of influences feeds into your current songwriting process?
Morrissey has influenced my lyrical approach massively. I’d always been into lyrics foremost but it wasn’t until I discovered him that I understood that I had the freedom I had to write about anything I wanted. Regardless of how dark it was. The Knife were quite an early influence for me in terms of their experimental style. When I first started trying to make music on my laptop I was fascinated with how they played with vocals and sonics. 

YouTube Preview ImageOne Eye Closed.

Your music is much bigger now, why did you feel it was important to get away from minimal home grown electro? How did you ensure you retained that personal charm?
I’ve always believed that I’m not an artist that will be a slave to a genre. Hopefully, my appeal comes from who I am and my lyrics. So even if I decided to make a country record ,as long as the lyrics were still ‘me’ then  people shouldn’t feel too alienated. Also, when you listen to a lot of the earlier stuff, you’re actually listening to me trying t figure out how to write a song. I had a lot of things I wanted to say but didn’t know how to get it out in the most coherent way. I hope I’ve achieved that on this album. I think that is what pop music is and does.

CocknBullKid by Victoria Haynes.

Asthma Attack is quite a party tune, who do you hope will listen to it, and in what situation?
Anyone. It’s for anyone in any situation.

Asthma Attack.

Why are you anti Diva?
Most of the time it’s unnecessary BUT there are times when you need to get a message across and if no one is listening to you you may have to make a noise. I wouldn’t say that’s being a diva though. If it was a man he would be called ‘assertive’. 

CocknBullKid by Alison Day
CocknBullKid by Alison Day.

Your live shows sound exciting, can you tell us a little bit about what we might expect from these?
I’ve been told by people that the live show is completely different to what you hear on the record and I think it is. It takes me a while to  really connect in a vocal booth. I’m a quite visual person so when I’m on stage it’s a completely different experience. It’s visual, it’s adrenaline fuelled. I come alive.

I did in fact see CocknBullKid live at the end of last week – read my review of her performance at Stag and Dagger, and listen to a special Soundcloud remix stream of CocknBullKid songs by Metronomy’s Olugbenga. Adulthood is out today on Moshi Moshi / Island Records.


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